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Ignite Bloomington presents 16th annual talks



Even though the world is seemingly always connected through technology, there is a huge disconnect between people, photographer Ivy Wilhelm said. She said she wants people to empathize with the subjects of her photography.

Wilhelm spoke as one of the presenters at Ignite Bloomington, which took place Wednesday at the Bishop. Ignite is an event where people can share their ideas in a five-minute, 20-slide PowerPoint presentation. Ignite Talks started in 2006 in Seattle, and since then the events have spread throughout the world. Ignite Bloomington started in 2009, and this is the 16th Ignite event. The Humanetrix Foundation Inc. a local technology nonprofit, organizes Ignite Bloomington.

Program organizer and Humanetrix board member Danise Alano-Martin said Ignite is a way for people to talk about what they are passionate about. Anyone can sign up to present at an Ignite event.

Wednesday’s event included presentations on topics like historical preservation, creative potential and the controversial legacy of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Bloomington city planner Amelia Lewis talked about the importance of city planning in her presentation.

“I like trying to make a semi-dry topic interesting for the audience and widening people’s perspectives on the topic,” she said.

Participants are generally encouraged to stay away from politically charged topics, Alano-Martin said.

“We want them to inspire the audience and educate the audience,” she said, “It’s just a lot of high energy and interesting talks.”

Ignite organizer and Humanetrix board member Katie Birge said she always learns something new at events.

She said some of her favorite presentations from past events include a talk on how Tupperware empowered businesswomen in the 1940s and 1950s and a talk from a game designer on why people like to play games that are almost impossibly difficult.

“The topics vary wildly from people’s hobbies to topic areas that someone may have learned about a couple years ago and want to share information on,” Birge said.

PowerPoint slides advance automatically every 15 seconds during presentations. Birge said she likes the frantic, fast-paced nature of the event.

“I think the universal takeaway is that you can prepare for it as much you want, but the fact that the slides automatically advance means you inevitably have more information than you have time to share,” Birge said.

Alano-Martin said she likes the variety of presentations. The talks can be about serious topics like cancer or depression, but they can also be lighthearted. A couple years ago, a presenter sang through the whole presentation, she said.

“I think my favorite thing is the potpourri of topics you get with each Ignite night,” she said. “You just never know what’s going to be in the lineup.”

Presenter Diane Daily said it was her first time at Ignite Bloomington on Wednesday. She spoke about her hobbies, such as entering contests and sweepstakes as well as how people can prevent scams.

She said she was impressed with all the presenters.

“They are topics you’re learning more about, and for each of the presenters, it’s like opening a world,” Daily said.

Birge said Ignite is also good way to learn new things about friends or acquaintances.

“I think that something people often respond to often is that they may know or be acquainted with a speaker that they see, but the speaker may be telling us something about them that we never knew before, in a really passionate way,” she said.

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